A Look Back at #GEW2018 in Africa


In Cairo, Minister Sahar Nasr, Egyptian Department of Investment and International Cooperation, broke ground on GEN@Bloomfields – a 90-acre entrepreneurship and innovation hub expected to be operational by 2021. The new hub, led by a partnership between GEN and Tatweer Misr, will host several technology labs, work stations, co-working spaces and event space while providing access to global and experienced entrepreneurs, mentors and funders under one roof.

GEW Egypt


In Durban, Microsoft launched Head Start, an accelerator program that boosts tech startups by giving them open access to skills development resources, coaches and a customer network. In Johannesburg, Minister Lindiwe Zulu, with the South African Department of Small Business Development launched the country’s Global Entrepreneurship Week celebration. The kick-off event took place at GEN’s first startup campus, 22 on Sloane, where more than 300 startups pitched throughout GEW with 100 selected for residency starting in January 2019.

GEW South Africa

How youth run enterprises can positively impact the South African economy

Recent unemployment stats released by Stats SA showed that the unemployment rate in South Africa increased to 27.2% in the second quarter of 2018, from 26.7% in the previous period. The number of unemployed increased to 6.08 million while the number of those employed decreased by 90 thousand to 16.29 million. In addition, youth unemployment rate in South Africa increased to 53.7%.

This does not make for happy reading. Even with all the interventions that the government is trying to put in place, these numbers make it very clear that more needs to be done.

And so, it is only logical to look to the next generation. With youth comes new ideas, positivity and modern education. Africa is said to be the youngest continent. If youth run businesses can positively impact the economy, they might be the answer to South Africa’s unemployment crisis.

60-70% of new jobs are created by SMEs in most economies, including South Africa. It then means that the best way to increase the rate of job creation is by having new businesses started and enabling existing businesses to expand so they can hire more people. So what more can we do to foster entrepreneurial skills for the youth in South Africa and how can we help to realise their potential?

The Universities Business Challenge

As many African countries are grappling with high levels of unemployment, the need for skills development to enable young people access job opportunities or go into self-employment is crucial. Luckily, some of the world’s biggest enterprises agree. General Electric tasked Cognity Advisory with a challenge: to develop programs that give practical expression to the company’s commitment to skills development and reinforce its support for universities in Africa. As a result, the Universities Business Challenge (UBC) was born.

The aim of the Universities Business Challenge (UBC), now in its 20th year, is to tackle South Africa’s high level of youth unemployment. The competition simulates a business environment and students are given a problem to solve. The simulation is designed to foster skills such as analytical thinking, problem solving, commercial awareness and team-working. The teams taking part also have a chance to win up to R50,000.

In South Africa, the schedule included the first comprehensive training programme for lecturers in entrepreneurship and business management, on integrating simulations into their course delivery. Participants were drawn from all South African universities and we established a collaboration with ENACTUS in South Africa.

Over the years, the UBC has helped over 26,500 students in South Africa, Nigeria and the UK gain necessary skills to improve their employability. But this is only the starting point. To create real change and encourage entrepreneurship from a young age, South Africa’s youth need encouraging at school and university.

Creating start-up accelerators at university

Academic institutions must focus on creating real solutions that tackle graduate unemployment. One way to do this is to create start-up accelerators at universities. This is popular in the US and the UK – for example, UC Berkeley launched its SkyDeck accelerator program, where each of the 20 startups accepted received up to USD100,000 in funding from leading Venture Capital investors. Oxford University has The Startup Incubator, which is free and aimed at students and alumni wanting to start or grow entrepreneur-driven ventures. The incubator has been in operation since 2011 and has taken in over 70 startup ventures ranging from the medical domain to social media data analysis. The University works with the companies on minimum viable product development and initial commercial traction has so far attracted over USD40 million from a range of public and private sources.

tart-up accelerators at universities can be very successful. However, they aren’t as common in South Africa as they are in other parts of the world and really, there is no good explanation as to why this is the case.

If universities do not feel they have the resources or insight to create a start-up incubator, then they need to think about recruiting academic entrepreneurs (academics who are entrepreneurial) as well as purely academic professors. It’s time to get practical and focus on those who can impart entrepreneurial wisdom.

Actively support young South African entrepreneurs

All hope is not lost. The Forbes Africa 30 under 30 2018 list was, for the first time, expanded to include a total of 90 game-changers, all under the age of 30, in each of the three sectors – business, technology and creative. Those included in the list are challenging conventions and rewriting the rules for the next generation of entrepreneurs, creatives and tech gurus. The judges ‘favoured entrepreneurs with fresh ideas and took into account their business size, revenue, location, potential, struggles, social impact and resilience.’ This means that those in the list have businesses of all different sizes and they all cite similar struggles to getting off the ground.

It is important that we look to this list and give them the support, publicity and encouragement they deserve. These are the leaders that our youth need to look up to, whether they want to become entrepreneurs themselves, or not. These are the leaders who can take South Africa to the next level – these are the leaders we need our youth to be inspired by.

The burden of employment should not be placed on the youth of our country – but, with the right support, they could be a significant part of the solution. We need to take responsibility for the opportunities that they will have in the future by teaching them the skills that we know they are going to need. At Cognity Advisory, we truly believe that if we want South African businesses to elevate and operate on a more global level, we must empower the leaders of tomorrow with the right knowledge and skills.

Making History at IAC: #NewSpaceAfrica

The International Astronautical Congress (IAC), held in October 1 – 5, 2018 in Bremen, Germany, opened the doors for a historic New Space event – one focused on space entrepreneurship on the African continent.. This panel was hosted by Airbus and moderated by NanoRacks’ VP of Business Development & Strategy, Allen Herbert.

Coined “#NewSpaceAfrica,” this event brought together emerging African, European, and American companies, including Airbus, the European Space Agency (ESA), regional space industry representatives of the European Union, and NanoRacks.

In its 69th year of existence, IAC Bremen featured for the first-time representatives from Nigeria, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Somalia, welcoming the emerging African private sector in the space industry and new space entrepreneurial leaders.

What emerged was the following:

  • The need for space-tech hubs that bring leaders together
  • The need for angel investment funding geared towards private new space companies
  • The to partner across the region to meet others with similar  space initiatives, and share risk
  • The need for African countries to gain flight heritage on aerospace components, so they can compete with COTS providers around the world

The momentum for space advancement in Africa appears to come from individuals at the university and private sector level. With the young professionals leading the way.

At the #NewSpaceAfrica event, two emerging South African companies, Simera Sense and NewSpace Systems, provided pitches which led to robust discussions. The organizing committee hopes that this session will grow to become an IAC staple, leading into the IAC 2019 which will take place in Washington, DC.

IAC 2019 provides the opportunity for the African space industry to learn from the leadership of entrepreneurial inspired companies, such as NanoRacks, Blue Origin, Rocket Lab, One Web, Virgin Orbit, and many more.  The accumulation of the forerunners of space entrepreneurship will lead to even more meaningful conversation.  These firms represent the companies paving the way for other space entrepreneurs in both in the United States and around the world.

There is a movement led by the young people in Africa to have an interpluvial space environment that is supported by governments, as well as regional and continental-wide African organizations.  But this is preceded by innovation that is taking place in other technology sectors with hubs popping up all over the continent.  We are only now in the beginning stages of the space sector hub development on the continent.

#NewsSpaceAfrica provides a conduit for all to send and identify what is occurring in the space sector on the African continent. This movement is far more than a hashtag- but we all know hashtags can blossom into something big and start change. Look at what they have done in America and around the world. Hashtags start movements and spur activity!

Starting from this event, there will come a very strong African contingent of the most creative and resourceful people in the world to participate in the space sector.

The future is bright and alive with positive conversation that will lead to the leapfrogging of space technology development and innovation becoming the domain in Africa’s emerging space companies.

The advent of space development and entrepreneurship is a movement with momentum that will continue to grow as Africa’s creativity and investments move to the space sector.

The African representatives that attended the IAC and those back in Africa are the seeds that will be the impetuous of African astronauts, Space Stations and modules circling the earth, as well as an African Moon and Mars facilities for research, development, and entrepreneurial advancement.

The future of space and technological innovation in Africa is here, real and advancing now.

Johnson & Johnson has Launched a USD50,000 Africa Innovation Challenge 2.0

Now in its second year, the 2018 Africa Innovation Challenge is open to innovators and entrepreneurs from Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria and Ghana among other African countries. The challenge focuses on identifying scalable and sustainable solutions to six major health and environmental problems for Africa’s population.

“The growing number of innovation hubs throughout Africa is sparking a new generation of entrepreneurs who are innovating and finding new solutions for issues facing their communities,” said Josh Ghaim, Chief Technology Officer, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc.

“Our goal is to expand our support for the region’s entrepreneurs by pushing the boundaries of creative solutions to meet several areas of urgent need. With six new solution categories, Africa Innovation Challenge 2.0 represents an extraordinary opportunity for the region’s growing community of innovators to showcase new ideas with the potential for broad societal impact,” added Ghaim.

On his part, Seema Kumar, Vice President, Innovation, Global Public Health and Science Policy Communication, Johnson & Johnson noted that the company was working with entrepreneurs around the world to relentlessly pursue innovations that advance and enhance the health of everyone.

“This is an exciting time to be part of Africa’s rapidly advancing innovation ecosystem, which recognizes that people and patients across the continent are waiting for urgent solutions. The Africa Innovation Challenge provides an important platform to support emerging entrepreneurs and help accelerate the development of unique, sustainable health care and environmental solutions.” Said Kumar

The Africa Innovation Challenge 2.0 is designed to address the critical unmet needs of the continent and local communities in Africa while providing support to Africa-based entrepreneurs in creating innovative healthcare products and services.

Among the selection criteria, entries must demonstrate the potential for scale from proof of concept stage to long-term sustainability. Challenge participants with the best solutions will receive up to US$50,000 in funding and mentorship from the global network of scientists, engineers and business managers within the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies to bring new solutions forward.

Submissions are open to all African countries from one or more individuals, teams or companies; subject to certain eligibility requirements set out in the terms and conditions for the challenge. The submitted healthcare solutions will be evaluated based on their ability to meet the following criteria: Idea submission addresses at least one of the six challenge categories, Idea submission is innovative and creative, Idea submission is scalable. The Idea submission must also outline how the award would help the applicant(s) reach a critical milestone within the timeframe of a single year and provides a full commercialization plan.

The first Johnson & Johnson Africa Innovation Challenge, launched in November 2016, sought novel ideas with a focus on three critical health areas: promoting early child development and maternal health; empowering young women; and improving family well-being.

Tsogo Sun Entrepreneurs graduates celebrate living the legacy

The ceremony, which was held at The Pivot at Montecasino (https://www.tsogosun.com/southern-sun-montecasino/meetings-events/the-pivot) with Rams Mabote, celebrity speaker, radio personality and entrepreneur as MC, commemorated 100 years since the birth of Nelson Mandela, and marked the dawn of a new chapter in the Tsogo Sun Entrepreneurs programme.

Candy Tothill, Tsogo Sun’s GM of Corporate Affairs, says, “It has been 13 years since Tsogo Sun Entrepreneurs took its first brave and hopeful steps with a handful of guesthouses in Soweto. We have steadily evolved to meet the changing needs in the entrepreneurial landscape – and today we have 240 beneficiaries. Of these, 152 are enrolled in development with us while the rest receive benefits to make doing business easier for them. 128 own and operate accommodation establishments, and 82% are South African women. There are also an additional 125 beneficiaries of the HCI Supplier Club, which was created with Tsogo Sun’s shareholder, HCI Limited.”

Tothill remarks on the privilege of following the journeys of the entrepreneurs, “I have watched them come to recognise that their voices can be heard and their stories identified with, that their sphere of influence is greater than realised, and that their impact is powerful. Today’s graduates are joining the ranks of enterprises at different stages of development, but all with a passion for developing and growing their businesses, and for building a proudly South African legacy that will continue long into the future.”

In the spirit of local growth – for their beneficiaries and the country – Tsogo Sun Entrepreneurs has partnered with Proudly South African and sponsors membership of the organisation for the emerging businesses it supports. Happy MaKhumalo Ngidi, Proudly South African’s Chief Marketing Officer, says, “Proudly South African is truly privileged to endorse Tsogo Sun’s Entrepreneur programme (https://www.tsogosun.com/citizenship/entrepreneurs). Enterprise and supplier development initiatives such as this are important in providing entrepreneurs with access to new markets to which they wouldn’t otherwise be exposed. This programme speaks exactly to the work Proudly South African is doing in promoting local procurement by local companies from local companies. We look forward to seeing the success of the new ‘intake’ of entrepreneurs match that of past recipients of Tsogo Sun’s training and mentorship.”

As the graduates were introduced onto the stage, short films about them and their businesses – ‘The Legacy Series’ – were shown. These videos were developed by Tsogo Sun Entrepreneurs to give the businesses additional professional exposure on social media and in the public domain.

The graduation consisted of four categories:

Second year to alumni (13) – Alex Ceramic Art in Design, Gemkids, Intaka Yempakamo Co-Operative, Ronem Maintenance Solutions, Sumting Fresh, Rifumo Bed and Breakfast Guesthouse, Vulamehlo Widows Support Group, Before Time Indlondlo Events, Sibahle Tours, Relax Spas, Ekhaya Nelspruit Guesthouse, Tlhagola Gardening & Cleaning Services, and 3@ Marion Guesthouse

Certificate of Foundation Skills for First Years Class of 2018 (7) – Smooth Energy, Enhlecreatives Photography & Design, Glenz Cakes, Back to Basics Sports Academy, Norman’s Tours and Shuttle Services, Alabanza and Alegria Trading, Dev’or Cosmetics and African Roots (Seven Sisters Wines)

Certificate of Completion First Years Class of 2018 (8 individuals in 6 businesses) – Roba Monakedi Guest Lodge, Asipiko Events and Marketing, CBK Master of Books, The Zone eMdeni Pub ‘n Grill, Greatone Infinity Design, and Fly Free Pest and Weed Control

Certificate of Merit First Years Class of 2018 (18 entrepreneurs from 15 businesses) – Be-Dazzled Party & Décor Hiring, Kasi Brothers Events, Asipiko Events and Marketing, Tych Labour Solutions, Geotra Exporters, V-A Virtual Assistant, Hitech Industrial Services, MGD Protection Services, World of Real Life Dreams, Bahati Tech, Luthando-Nto General Trading Enterprise, OBT Waste Management, Magauta Designs and Projects, Lowe Furniture & Décor, and Dimzique Jewellery

The 2018 Tsogo Sun Entrepreneurs Achiever Award was presented to Lowe Furniture & Décor owner Velaphi Mpolweni who won R20,000 from Tsogo Sun Entrepreneurs and a business bursary from Tsheto Leadership Academy valued at R10,000 entitled ‘Master 1 – a new state of consciousness’, as well as a hamper from Proudly South African. Mpolweni started his business in 2016 and designs and manufactures custom-made and contemporary furniture, steel products and ornamental accessories using solid wood, steel and glass. Mpolweni says, “We are constantly developing new product designs that are beautiful, enduring, environmentally friendly, compatible with our landscape, and in line with ourslogan, ‘Evolution of style, enhancing the beauty of Africa’, because Africa is a beautiful continent.”

Tothill congratulated Mpolweni on achieving the highest marks in the University of Cape Town business management course. “Velaphi Mpolweni overcame adversity         and is building a legacy both for his family and for the country. We are immensely proud of all he is accomplishing and wish him the best, as well as our continued support, into the future.”

To all the graduates, she said, “We continue to celebrate and encourage this remarkable entrepreneurial spirit that exists in all of you and we look to a future wh


ere we can continue to provide ‘ordinary’ South Africans running their own businesses with this extraordinary platform to become successful instruments of positive change in our country.”

Tsogo Sun has a portfolio of over 100 hotels and 13 casino and entertainment destinations throughout South Africa, Africa and the Seychelles. For more details, visit https://www.tsogosun.com, follow on Twitter @TsogoSun or like on Facebook.com/TsogoSun.  To learn more about the Tsogo Sun Entrepreneurs, visit them on Facebook.com/TsogoEntrepreneurs.